England ready for defence

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The Independent Online


reports from Amstelveen

England begin the defence of the women's European Cup this evening when they play Belgium here in the Netherlands. With an impeccable record against the Belgians - nine wins in nine encounters - nothing short of victory will satisfy the new coach, Maggie Souyave.

Souyave, who took over after England's disappointing ninth place in the World Cup in Dublin last summer, has achieved mixed results in the build- up. Her five changes have done little to improve England's poor goalscoring record and is unlikely to do so unless the recalled Karen Brown is allowed to play further forward.

There must also be concern about the lack of speed in defence, although the intention to play the captain, Sandie Lister, in the back row will help.

The crunch for England will come on Saturday when they play Germany, a repeat of last year's final. After the Germans, England complete their pool matches with games against Italy and Ireland.

ENGLAND WOMEN'S SQUAD (European Cup; Amstelveen, Neth; 14-25 June): S Lister (capt), C Reid, J Thompson, J Smith (all Ipswich), K Brown, M Nicholls, A Bennett (Slough), L Cope (Leicester), J Sixsmith, L Bayliss, M Davies (Sutton Coldfield), T Miller (Clifton), C Cook, T Cullen, F Lee (Hightown), J Atkins (Bradford Swithenbank).